Every month, more of us are turning to shopping online rather than braving the high street. You can now buy pretty much anything over the internet, from essentials like groceries to luxuries like foreign holidays and designer clothes.
Used correctly, the web could help you save a small fortune. However, many of us are still concerned about the security and reliability of online purchasing.
Here’s our guide to making online shopping work for you.
1. Do your research
Shopping online means you can compare hundreds of similar items in minutes (rather than spending hours trooping around different shops).
Once you’ve decided on an item you want, use price comparison websites to pinpoint where you can get it for the lowest price.
2. Make big savings
Once you’ve found the best deal, see if you can use a cashback website to save even more money. If you go via a cashback site to buy an item, that site will pay you back a small percentage of the money you spend.
You’ll also earn some money back if you buy the item using a cashback credit card.
And before you flash the cash, it’s also worth investigating whether there are any voucher codes you could use.
For example, big retailers like Tesco and Debenhams often release codes that entitle you to between 5% and 20% off the purchase price – or free delivery.
3. Don’t be sucked in!
While shopping online, make sure you’re not taken in by persuasive sales techniques.
For example, many companies now use sophisticated and targeted online advertising, ‘remembering’ what you last bought or viewed, and displaying related products.
Online shoppers are particularly likely to make impulse purchases: you never have to get any actual cash out of your wallet, which makes it very easy to tell yourself you’re not spending ‘real’ money!
4. Online spending security
When it comes to buying things online, fraud and identity theft are very real concerns. However, there are several simple steps you can take to minimise the risks:
- Make sure the website you’re using is secure. Look for the ‘https//’ prefix at the beginning of the address, and the padlock symbol that should be present on any payment pages.
- Are the privacy and returns policies reasonable and clearly explained?
- Does the company also give a postal address and telephone number? This isn’t a fail-safe guarantee of authenticity, but it is a good indication that the company is legal and above-board.
For more tips on safe online shopping, take a look at the Get Safe Online website.
5. Your rights as an online shopper
Finally, remember that you have certain extra rights when shopping online. If you buy something over the internet (or by mail order, phone or television) you’re covered by distant selling regulations.
When you shop online, you’re obviously not able to have face-to-face contact with the retailer, or to examine the goods prior to purchase.
Because of this, you’re legally entitled to change your mind, return the goods and claim a full refund within a certain ‘cooling off’ period (usually lasting seven days).